davidehrlich’s review published on Letterboxd:
***THIS IS A PIECE I WROTE ABOUT THE OSCARS AND HOW THE HANDMAIDEN SHOULD WIN ALL OF THEM***
No Korean movie has ever won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that no Korean movie has ever been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In other words, Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” — which won a little gold man for Best Art Direction in 2010 — has more Oscars to its name than the entire country of Korea or anyone from it.
That’s odd and rather damning given the self-evident strength of the country’s national cinema, which has been invaluable since long before Shin Sang-ok’s “My Mother and the Roomer” was chosen as their first Oscar submission in 1962. It’s become only more visible on the world stage thanks to the emotionally operatic, auteur-driven melodramas that have defined the Korean New Wave over the last 18 years.
And it’s not as if the Korean Film Council hasn’t been trying to play the game. They’ve submitted wrenching tragedies Lee Chang-dong’s “Secret Sunshine” (an unassailable masterpiece), they’ve submitted accessible crowdpleasers like “Welcome to Dongmakgol,” and they’ve submitted eccentric delights like Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother.”
None of these picks has made the final five. They haven’t been shortsighted so much as they’ve been snakebitten.
But 2016 could’ve been different. 2016 could’ve been the year that Korea broke the curse, triumphed over the Academy’s broken system for recognizing foreign films, and brought an Oscar back to the streets of Seoul. 2016 could’ve been the year of “The Handmaiden.”